The 'Wild West' no longer: eHealth/telehealth patent infringement lawsuits on rise (US)

You can call this the ‘bad news’ side of the good news lately on increased telehealth/mHealth investment and acceptance. This lengthy and well-written Mobihealthnews article discusses the increased use of litigation in patent infringement conflicts in telehealth and mHealth, such as last week’s filing by AirStrip Technologies against much smaller mVisum [TA 23 Oct]. At Telecare Aware we have noted the rise in large companies such as Bosch and CardioNet aggressively defending their patents against multiple early-stage companies’ devices, some without patent protection, but equally without the resources to defend themselves. The author, attorney Orion Armon of Cooley LLP, points out that patenting is on the increase, especially by large companies which can afford this expensive process. As long as profits were non-existent and outside investment was scanty, many companies did not bother to patent their technologies, assuming everyone was in the same developmental boat. This is now a big mistake as beyond large eHealth companies, patent aggregators have now entered the field, purchasing and extending patent portfolios, as well as large non-healthcare companies eyeing infringements in mobile and networking aspects. Mr. Armon offers smart recommendations for company self-protection beyond simply filing a patent. It’s another sign that the ‘gold rush’ of health apps and similar technologies is concluding. Is mobile health about to enter a patent thicket?

And if you’re a user of technology, you may be getting a nastygram about licensing fees. Is it coincidence that on this very day, attorney Lee Kim of Tucker Arensberg, PC, writes in mHIMSS revealing that a little-known Los Angeles-based company called MMRGlobal last week announced that it claims to own “significant foundational patents (that are) relevant to virtually any provider who transmits electronic health records in that it will limit their ability to communicate protected health information without potentially infringing on MMR’s patents.” Its outside counsel is firing off 250 letters per week to hospitals, practices, pharmacies and other healthcare professionals using EMRs/EHRs. Notably MMRGlobal is going after users, seeking to establish its licenses and collect licensing fees. One would expect that the patent infringers would be the 400-odd EMR/EHR companies already in the field, but one suspects the market leaders have bevies of attorneys quite ready to put paid to this. We will let our readers decide the merits of this company’s case. A similar event is taking place with hospitals using Wi-Fi. Healthcare – and mHealth – faces patent enforcement issues (mHIMSS) MMRGlobal shareholder letter (Yahoo! Finance/Marketwire).